As of this morning, I’ve been a parent of two children for four months and one day. Thanks to the five-year separation in their ages, it doesn’t always feel like it.
When Mom and Buried and I decided to have another kid, we worried about the bigger-than-desired age gap, but so far, it’s making things easier for us. So much so that I sometimes forget I have two kids!
I don’t mind the sibling age gap.
All in all, being a father to two children hasn’t been bad. Sure, the lack of sleep is trying, but I was already tired. How much more tired can a guy get? (None more tired.) And as we enter month five of The Hammer’s life, he’s begun sleeping through the night. Can’t ask for much more than that!
My five-year-old has taken pretty well to being a big brother. He is a little rambunctious around the baby, but he’s five. He’s a little rambunctious around his shadow. There’s a chance some of his more “dramatic” behavior of late is a result of the insecurity that comes with having competition, but he hasn’t done the hilariously psychotic “I’m going to put the baby in the garbage!” routine that you hear about, so there’s a chance his more… offbeat (euphemism FTW!) behavior is simply due to the fact that, again, the dude’s five.
In all my pre-birth hand-wringing and anxiety about how difficult my life was going to become when my second son was born, I’d forgotten how easy babies could be. They’re inconvenient, and draining (quite literally, if you’re breastfeeding), but provided there are no health concerns or other mitigating factors, they’re not that tough. It’s when they get mobile, and verbal, and when they start becoming actual people, that things get tough. With our sibling age gap, we can tackle one at a time. At least for a few more years!
When we go to a restaurant, or a beer garden, The Hammer sits there in his stroller, usually either sleeping or silently surveying the world, happy as a clam, while we eat and drink and drink and drink. (We have two kids. It’s necessary.) Meanwhile, across the table, Detective Munch is usually acting up. Five-year-olds need maintenance, and distraction. Sure, he doesn’t need his diaper changed, but he needs his attention focused, his hunger sated (he gets hangry), his behavior rewarded and/or reprimanded (emphasis on the latter). Mostly, he needs an iPad.
Until he graduates to toddler stage, The Hammer might as well be the world’s most expensive designer handbag (which actually isn’t true, because despite how expensive raising children is, some asshole out there has probably created a bag that rich women will pay millions for). By contrast, Detective Munch is more like an unruly pet (Come at me!), or maybe a person who until recently was raised by wolves.
None of this is a reflection of how I feel about the baby himself. He’s a smiley little guy who is basically a joy to be around. I’ve never cared much about babies, but I’d forgotten how cute they can be; The Hammer reminds me every day. Hearing him laugh, watching his face light up when I sing to him, the pure, unadulterated joy of a baby experiencing life for the first time is infectious.
It’s a relief to have someone like that around, especially when you’re pretty sure your five-year-old is straight-up attempting to make you insane. Which isn’t to say that in the middle of the night, when you wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the
lambs baby, you don’t appreciate the soundly sleeping five-year-old, even if he is in the middle of your own bed. Or that when he gives you a hug, or gets a base hit, or says something clever, you don’t appreciate his age too.
Both stages – the baby stage and the kindergartener stage – have their benefits and their drawbacks. Detective Munch’s drawbacks just happen to be more challenging, because they require a response. They require actual parenting.
The baby gets the benefit of the doubt in every case. The five-year-old does not. As an actual human being with the ability to listen and understand, the older kid is held to higher standards. None of The Hammer’s behavior, positive or negative, is on purpose. Nothing he does is with malice, even if it might seem that way when he stares you down while blowing out his diaper.
It’s easy to forget an immobile, mostly silent (when he’s not screaming), borderline-accessory that has no personal agency. It’s much less easy to forget a hyper, talkative (when he’s not screaming), borderline-demon who is constantly exploring life and testing his, and your, limits. (No matter how much I’d occasionally like to.)
I have two kids, but four months in, thanks to the five-year sibling age gap, I still feel like I’m only a parent to one. Thank god!